Working the Angulars.

It's that time of year again. No, not Christmas, but the time I take all my remaining annual leave from work and spend it playing with technology.

This year it's Angular.js. Or more acurately, how to best make use of it without throwing away the useful stuff I've already got.

If you're reading this on an unfinished looking site then you're probably looking at the work-in-progress version of my Angular re-write. Also, my appologies for the state of things, including the unparsed nature of this text.

At work we have our own framework called Foundations that handles everything from receiveing the http request to spitting back HTML. It's been around a while and whilst it handles all the nasty database and securtity stuff just fine, front end technology such as HTML5 and the masses of javascript frameworks have moved things on and kind of left us behind.

In a simple parallel, I've got years of blogging waffle in a Drupal CMS installation, which I'd like to keep using as the CMS tool, but also make use of in an Angular front end. At the moment, the Drupal site is configured to spit out JSON and I'm playing with a seperate Angular based site that consumes that JSON.

Hopefully the things I learn doing this will be applicable to the situation at work too. For example, it's starting to smell like a REST/$resource type approach is the way to go for 'real' projects. If we can built a thin REST layer into Foundations, then Angular and probably most other new fangled JS frameworks will play nice with it. 

 

Waffle about: 

iPoint of Sale

It’s been almost a year since I waffled on about the then new iPhone 5 and what else people might want from a phone.

Now the iPhone 5S has been out for a bit, here’s what I reckon.

I previously wondered what else they could add in terms of hardware, and in the end they added three new features:

- Fingerprint reader
- M7 co-processor chip
- Faster CPU

Software-wise, you might have noticed that Apple also released iOS7.

Now, so what - you may well ask. Taken individually these new features seem like a bit of a gimmick in the case of fingerprint reader and only slight updates in the cases of the coprocessor and faster CPU.

But I think they’re just laying the groundwork for bigger and scarier things.

As Apple realised before anyone else (apart from maybe Amazon), it’s not about the individual devices; it’s about the infrastructure and reducing the friction involved when relieving customers of their cash.

With the new fingerprint scanner, assuming it’s accurate enough in real-world use, they’ve combined the devices in our pockets with our credit card details to produce walking points of sale. Tack on the new iBeacon bluetooth stuff and they’re about to make in-store tracking and payments as easy as Amazon made it online.

The new M7 chip basically takes care of capturing and processing all the data from the various gyroscopic, compass and accelerometer sensors in the phone, even when asleep, freeing up the CPU and preserving battery life. If basic gyroscopic sensors were good enough to navigate Lancaster bombers across Europe during WW2, imagine what the ones in an iPhone can do. All the time. Whilst it’s asleep. Some say scary, I say cool, a phone that knows when you’re driving and doesn’t disturb you.

Glueing all this together are the more boring features of the faster CPU and the new APIs in iOS7. Non-techies might not care but having more CPU power available means a lot more potential in terms of app functionality and the new iOS APIs make it easier to extract that functionality.

I think the new iPhone is greater than the sum of it’s parts and with my tin-foil hat on I know that its ultimate aim is to relieve me of (more) money, but I’m still quite looking forward to seeing what developers make of it’s new capabilities.
 

Waffle about: 

iPhone5? We want MORE!

It seems that people are disappointed with the new iPhone 5 release. Apart from Samsung that is, they seem quite pleased by it. I think both viewpoints are down to the lack of hardware features that make for great news headlines. The article writers wanted more to shout about, and Samsung are relieved that there isn't anything more to shout about.

The thing is though, I don't know what other hardware they could have added. The screen is now 16:9 and a decent resolution, it has 4G capability, a whizzy enough processor and a decent camera capable of full HD video capture. Without sounding like a troll, what's missing?

I suspect a lot of the negative attitudes (lack of traffic attracting headline-grabbing features aside) is down to the apparent lack of freedom. Yes, you have to use iTunes, yes you need Apple TV to connect to use Airplay and yes, you have to use the App store to buy stuff. The thing is, I like that. We're a Mac household. We don't have a household Windows PC that we all use - just MacBooks, iPhones and an iPad. So I quite like the way they all 'just work' with each other.

I understand that the lack of tinkering options and being 'forced' to use Apple stuff is a deal breaker for others, and that's cool. But their deal breaker is exactly the reason I like it. I don't want 15 different ways to be able to do something, with the option of adding more - I just want one way that works.

Waffle about: 

Outburst, me?

Having removed the car based content from this site and moved it to Owners Diary, I thought I'd carry on with this content-type specialisation stuff and create somewhere for me to rant as well.

http://www.outburst.me

There it is. An outlet for my rantings that will hopefully result in this site evolving into something with a line of content that is more considered, thoughtful and less shouty.

Yeah, right.

Waffle about: 

Why So Quiet?

I just realised that I've been throwing all my words onto a different site recently which is why it's been a bit quiet around here.

As my car related ramblings had started to take over this site I thought it best to give them a home of their own. And then I thought others might want to do the same thing, and so Owners Diary was born

http://www.ownersdiary.co.uk

Whilst the entries at the moment are car related, there's no reason why other vehicles can't be included. The idea is to also have it remind you when things like MOT and insurance are due, once I get the basics sorted.

It's in closed beta at the moment, but please drop me a mail/tweet/comment/facebook post if you'd like an account to play with.

Waffle about: 

Things that make you go M..mm?

This isn't a snobby rant, much, but is based on my genuine confusion.

I'm confused as to why people stick badges on their cars which lie. In particular, the BMW 'M' badge. Now, if you don't know what that is, it signifies that the BMW it's stuck to is the 'Motorsport' model of the range. Which in turn means that it's significantly different under the skin with uprated suspension, brakes, differential and engine. At least.

Now the key point is my qualifier 'if you don't know what that means'. The 'M' badge itself doesn't explain anything in the same way that 'turbo', 'V8' or '3.0 litre' do. It's just a letter, and if you don't already know what it means it doesn't really explain itself.

Conversely, if you do know what it means, you'll immediately be able to tell if the car it's stuck to is really the Motorsport model by virtue of it's extra exhaust pipes, flared arches, side grills, and (for the extra nerdy types) red needles in the dash dials.

So if you stick an M badge on a non-M BMW, the only people who will know what that means (and therefore the only people who could technically be impressed) will be exactly the people who know you're lying.

Waffle about: 

Two in the bush?

It's well known that looking up medical symptoms on the web is generally not a good idea as you inevitably discover that your symptoms are in fact signs of imminent death rather than the more likely minor condition.

For self confessed worriers like myself, I'd say this phenomena is even worse when looking up car issues to the extent that I seem to convince myself that I've got issues for which I've had no tangible symptoms!

For example; when having the alignment sorted out a few weeks back it was pointed out that the rubber bush at the outer end of the camber control arm needs replacing. I'm not entirely sure if that's the right name for it as the alignment guy didn't seem too sure. So I went online to see if I could find out what it was called and get a price for the bits.

In case any experts are reading this and are feeling kind enough to drop me a line to tell me, it's this bit:

After a surfing session I ended up convincing myself that I needed all manner of suspension bushes changing, some of which where a nightmare to to. ('Bushes' are the rubber bits that sit between a number of metal suspension bits to absorb movement.)

Having said that, it seems that upgrading from the standard rubber bushes to performance polyurethane ones can improve handling quite a bit. http://www.powerflex.co.uk/why_pu.php

So that's something else to add to the Christmas list whilst I continue my search for a name and price for the current issue-ette.

Update, a few weeks later..
Turns out it's called the 'lower control arm bush'. But it's still a confusing part as the local garage had trouble identifying it as they initially got sent the wrong parts.

Still, it's all replaced now and whilst the car was up on the ramp I thought it made sense to have both sides done, and to replace the eccentric bolts too.

And being the worrier that I am, I asked the guys to check for anything else under there that might need doing, seeing as the other bushes are in theory the same age, but they report everything is sorted and nothing else needs doing. Result!

Waffle about: 

Losing my grip

After a few weeks of being more wary of the rain than a typical London commuter (another story), I've finally replaced the remnants of tyre that were covering my rear wheels.

Normally with my other cars this involves choosing a premium brand, having them fitted and driving away all happy and stuck to the road.

This time however I'm performing a little experiment by going with a not so premium brand. Don't get me wrong, they're not dodgy remoulds from a bloke in the pub who gets them from someone he knows 'in the trade', but they're not made of pure gold like the top of the range £230 per corner types either.

And seeing as I was feeling all sassy I've gone for a slightly lower profile too, mainly as this hugely increases the range of tyres available. The standard size is 255/40/18 on the rear, but these are 255/35/18.

For those who think that's a very strange date of birth, it's actually:

Tyre width in mm / side wall height (as a % of the width) /wheel diameter in inches.

Hopefully this blog entry will be useful to the many other M3 owners who wander through forums looking for comments about which tyres are good enough to keep you out of the hedge, but still affordable. (Note that I didn't say "cheap". You can't say that word when talking about owning an M3. About ANYTHING.) Also, if these tyres end up killing me, this post will serve as a very handy "don't do that" warning to others :-)

I've gone for Nexen N6000 tyres. I know, they're not well known, and that's mainly the point. I'm fed up of all the conflicting stories from M3 owners about how they found mid range tyres to be as good as the premium or how the mid range ones made their car feel broken.

Another reason for buying them was the cost for two, fitted was £187. Yup, for the pair. So I got a full alignment whilst I was there. Total cost, £214. That's less than the price of a single fancy-dan tyre.

Here's what the internet thinks of my choice:

Picture and more detail from http://www.tyrereviews.co.uk/Tyre/Nexen/N6000.htm

Yes, I know they're not the best, but at a 3rd of the price of super whizzy tyres it's worth the experiment so I can at least know for certain that you do get what you pay for when stumping up the cash.

My reasoning is that I don't care about lifespan, as I only drive the car occasionally and I'm not too fussed about wet handling as I don't use it in the wet or if I do it'll just be coming home when caught out in it. Unless I happen to be on a track day when it rains in which case... whahaaaay!

On the short drive home I must say the car felt a little bit more squirmy than before, but then the last set where almost slicks and these ones have actual tread. See...

Also, you're supposed to let new tyres bed in for a bit until all the release agent (used to get them out of the moulds) has worn off, and to make sure they've settled on the rims nicely. Which reminds me.. I didn't reset the 'something wrong with one of the wheels' sensor thingy.

Oh no.. an excuse to go for a drive tomorrow.

I'll update this blog in a few hundred miles when I'll know if they're a bargain or grim reaper catnip.

Waffle about: 

Seeing sens-or

Being a typical techy with a new toy, I've been reading the M3 forums and I came across this one where a lot of people are reporting a noticeable improvement in throttle response and idle after cleaning the MAF. (Mass Airflow Sensor)

http://forums.m3cutters.co.uk/showthread.php?t=12335

And seeing as I'm intending to get a bit more hands on with this car, I thought I'd give it a go.

Of course I had to pay the notorious 'M tax' on the tools as it needed a security torx spanner... £13 a set. (I know that doesn't sound much, but they're just glorified allen keys!)

After the nicely engineered German clip was unclipped and the two torx bots were undone I removed the sensor and set about it with good old Halfords electrical contact cleaner.

The hole in the middle of the picture is where the sensor came out..

And here's the sensor itself..

It was pretty manky so I gave it a second dose and waited for it to dry.

Once dry, I put it back in and crossed everything whilst starting the engine. Hurrah, it started and idles ok so I didn't make anything worse! I took it for a quick spin and whilst it might have felt a little more responsive it wasn't that noticeable, if at all and there's still a little hesitancy when cold.

But it still goes like an absolute rocket and makes everyone else seem like they're driving at walking pace, so perhaps it's a good thing that it's not any faster than it was!

After looking into it a bit more it seems that the people who notice the biggest improvement have changed their OEM air filter for either a K&N or Streamlined Engineering (SE) filter. Where the standard filter is the usual paper/mesh based affair, the K&N and SE filters are what's known as 'oiled', which means the paper is soaked in oil to improve the filtering capability.

One down side of these filters is that the oil can come off them over time and coat the MAF sensor, and as the sensor is self-cleaning (by heating up to 600 degrees to burn the crud off) it's never changed as part of a service.

As mine has the standard air filter, my sensor was still clean enough to be working as advertised.

And who said you can't learn stuff from the internet!

Waffle about: 

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